|Photo credit: Jennifer Vander Klipp
I’m a huge proponent of setting goals—short, medium, and long term. And revisiting them periodically to see how you’re progressing and to see if they still fit. Last year my life took a dramatic turn. I no longer was a single mom of two high-needs kids. I became a wife and added four stepchildren. Time to revisit my goals.
So while I’m working away at my company—Tandem Services—on a daily basis, I’m also thinking about my goals and how I want to go about achieving them. I have a lot of freedom in my day, what’s the best way to make use of that?
I like the acronym SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, reasonable, time-sensitive) for setting goals. A lot has been written about that and posted elsewhere so I’m not going to go into that. What I am going to do is reveal a secret I think many of us have.
I don’t know what my goals are right now.
Yep. I said it. No goals. I know there are some things I want to do (repaint most of the house, clean the garage, bake bread, yada yada yada), and I have projects for my company that need to be done, each with their own steps and goals. I had very specific reasons for wanting to leave my job and come home. But those are values, not goals.
For the past seven years my goal could have been boiled down to one thing: survival. I was a single mom. I had to jumpstart my career, keep food on the table, keep a roof over our heads. I battled Lyme disease, fought for my autistic son to get school services, schlepped my ailing daughter from doctor to specialist to the hospital trying desperately to discover why she was declining so quickly to the point of being unable to walk until we got a diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. I was in the Midwest; my family in California. I fought daily the push-pull tide of taking care of my kid and taking care of my job.
My daughter learned to walk again and got out of the hospital. I bought us a house. A project house, but something that a landlord couldn’t raise the rent on or put up for sale out from under us. I got married and had someone to share this crazy journey with, to shoulder the burdens with me and share in the delight and joy.
Even when survival was my only goal, I accomplished something I didn’t intentionally start out to do. I learned to trust God more fully, deeply, completely each day. My personality type is to complete things, check things off lists. Be the giver, not the receiver. And through that season of life, I could rarely do any of those things. I couldn’t set a goal, list the steps, and then set out to achieve it. I had to rely on God in a way I’d never had to before. To put food on our table, a roof over our heads. To provide me with a job that paid the bills and had the flexibility I needed to take care of my children. To put knowledgeable doctors in our path.
This is my secret bone to pick with goals: they are fine in their place, but they do have a place. Goals are not the solution to your life’s problems (oh, I wish they were!). They’re important. They provide order and structure and direction. They allow us to be good stewards of our time, gifts, and resources. Yet they all must remain in their place, subservient to God’s desires for my life and what He wants to accomplish in me in this season.
So in this next season of life (I’m not going to put a time limit on it, but I suspect it could take all summer) I’m going to allow myself to be goal-less, to think about possibilities, to be reasonable about what I can accomplish in this season of life, to dream and imagine and pray. At the end, if I only have one goal, that’s okay.